Canyonlands: Tales from Narrow Places

Adventures in Escalante, PART IV – Weather turns & plans change

Posted in Utah by canyoneering on March 24, 2010

Drill Hole Canyon w/ side trip to Zebra Slot, 3BIII
approximately 8 miles
Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
03/14/10

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In a half sleepless state two thoughts went through my mind, tomorrow is going to be the peak day of the trip when we would attempt a descent of the much anticipated Neon Canyon and second, what is that pitter patter sound on the tent?. Waking up with just the faintest light in the sky I unzipped the tent to see the world outside covered in an inch of snow. Everybody woke and we all agreed because of the weather that a descent of Neon Canyon was out of the question. We made a hot breakfast and a fire with no real plans for the day as more snow fell from the sky. Before not too long the snow stopped and we began going through the extra beta we brought along to find a Plan B and decided on a Class A (dry canyon in normal conditions) technical canyon called Drill Hole Canyon in Kelsey’s guidebook.

By the time we began the descent of Drill Hole Canyon it was nearly noon and temperatures had not reached above 40 degrees. Several down climbs including an intimidating but not too difficult 30- foot chimney brought us to a nice section of narrow canyon. The wet winter had filled this Class A canyon with water forcing us to swim across several painfully cold pools. A few rappels later the canyon opened up for a while before reaching its confluence with Harris Wash. We made a fire at the confluence to warm up before venturing up Harris Wash to explore Zebra Slot, a narrow canyon with zebra-like stripes in the sandstone walls. Chest high water filled the bottom of the slot in sections. Eric and I explored a short way up the slot as Mike and Laura peered in from the dry entrance.

We hiked back to our car along the rim of Drill Hole Canyon with snow-covered mesas above. The sun set shortly before the end of the hike. In total darkness the drive back along the access road had a frightening moment as we began skidding on the mud towards a steep drop off along the side of the road. Eric handled the drive like a pro and got us safely back to the town of Escalante where enjoyed a restaurant dinner before heading back to our camp along Hole-in-the-Rock Road.

-David

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